Can Dalton McGuinty’s bland-and-boring image withstand the increase in Internet attack campaigns?
Premier Dalton McGuinty has a personal image (as opposed to a political image) that’s about as likely to inflame passion as vanilla pudding. People might rage about the provincial government’s positions on health premiums and eco-fees, but McGuinty’s personality never elicits the kind of anger that, say, Giorgio Mammoliti did this week. Of course, McGuinty’s personality (or lack thereof) is a huge part of the Liberal brand—borrowing Tory Bill Davis’s quip that “bland works”—and proved to be a big part of his success in selling himself as the safe alternative in 2007. But the problem for McGuinty and the Liberals is that 2011 isn’t 2007: today’s voters seem to be more willing to go with bombast instead of bland (see Ford, Rob), and that reality is being reflected most strongly in the Internet campaigns each of the political parties have launched in the lead-up to the October election.
On Wednesday, the NDP launched a new website to counter social media attacks and rumours they claim are being spread by other parties.
The site, www.stopthesmears.ca, aims to dispel myths such as the NDP have a fleet of 20 orange SUVs on standby for the election and that leader Andrea Horwath is really the incarnation of Mike Harris….
The Tories started www.truthabouttimhudak.com and within 24 hours they believe the Liberals, or their supporters, started up the parallel site www.thetruthabouttim.com. The later site does not advertise who created it but it notes Hudak would “cut $3 billion out of health care” and that he wants to scrap the Liberals’ Green Energy Act.
Dirty political campaigns certainly aren’t new to Ontario politics (the Liberals tried to brand Cheri Di Novo as a former teenage drug dealer during her byelection win in 2006)—but we wonder how difficult the Liberals will find balancing nice-guy McGuinty against the smear strategies on the Net. For instance, will the Liberals be able to pull off a strong attack campaign online without it adversely affecting McGuinty’s affable television persona? But then again, the Liberals may be facing an even great danger—that voters don’t want a boring-but-competent premier at all.